Critical Failures (and Successes)

Table top gamers live for the thrill of Critical rolls; the Natural Twenty is a sanctified thing, the Natural One that fumbles your weapon…

GURPS has much more serious Crits. More serious than Robert Bevan’s Critical Failures, to be sure, but more serious than most D20 games as well.  For one thing, they are a bit rarer. on a D20, Crits happen  a flat 5% of the time. With GURPS, basic critical rolls happen 3.6% of the time, modified by extremely high level.  Then you get to roll on the secondary table, where nothing significant happens about 40% of the time.  Which means significant effects occur roughly 2% of the time, a significant change in probability.

Then you have the case of deliberate critical events.  A while back, I stumbled upon S. John Ross’s BlueRoom website of classic GURPS goodies and his treatment of a spell that would simulate the effects of a Wand of Wonder. That treaqtment effectively forgoes normal success and failure to roll only critical success and failure effects that are random.  Wierdness magnet is usually a prerequisite for casting the spell.  I have used it twice in Northport; once in the initial 2002 game, where an NPC  mage used it to escape a deadly ambush, and got teleported into a pit, and more recently, when hireling Apprentice Ludlow the Munificent attempted to interrupt a demon summoning by some cultists and accidentally opened a portal to Hell that sucked in the room just after the PC’s escaped.

Critical combat rolls in GURPS often result in the kind of effects only seen in AD&D when dealing with the fencing bot in S-3, with disadvantages acquired, like loss of a limb or sense. Critical successes when spellcasting in my game have more productive effects.

Modified from my original run through the Adventurer’s Guild proving ground, I have at least two NPC’s wandering around who are the direct byproduct of overly successful magical effects; Cavill the Wayfallen and The Truthful Knight.

Cavill the Wayfallen was an adventurer whose party suffered greatly in an attack, and who personally suffered from the effects of the legal compact which they had chartered themselves with.  The compact was a sort of collective will, not just spelling out the means of loot division, but also allowing for redistribution of personal property in case of death.  In this case, the compact allowed for the selling of the remains of party members to the guild necromancer in order to defray the costs of healing the survivors.  A critical success by Selan the Necromancer later, and Cavill became a willful undead.

Using the templates for willful corporeal undead from Sean Punch’s Undead, Iand adding in a particular form of Disturbing voice (with his throat slit, I had him speaking without vowels) and what I had figured as a 10 point advantage at the time, allowing him some influence on other mindless undead, Cavill staged a strike by the other undead until his Social Stigma: Dead and Wealth: Dead Broke could be arbitrated into a form of indentured servitude instead of outright slavery.  Two separate generations of ranking guild PC’s have had to intervene in that mess.

Less legally complicated was the case of the Truthful Knight. Inspired by the Truthtelling Knights and the Lying Knaves from Labyrinth and countless logic puzzles before that film, the Truthful Knight started his existence as a Brute Warrior Creation with independence, until the U-mana mage creating him rolled a 3.

  The Truthful Knight

ST 16 DX 12 IQ 12 HT 12

HP 16 Will 12 PER 12 FP 12

T/s 1d+1/2d+2 BS 6 M 6 D 9 Block 9

DR 6 (Plate plus shield with DB2)

Skills: Broadsword 16 Shield 12 Philosophy 14

Traits: Doesn’t Eat/Drink, Doesn’t Sleep, Doesn’t Breath, Indominable, Single Minded, Unaging, Unfazeable

Clueless, Dependency:Manna (Common, Constant),Easy to Read, Fragile(unnatural), Hidebound, Honesty,             Incurious, Low Empathy, No sense of Humor, Truthful (CR 18), affected by Control Creation

On another related note, one of the characters currently active (although the player has changed) is a knight with wierdness magnet. Off template, but I made it cost through constant use.  The player was infected with a Scavenger Worm’s blood, and began to sprout tentacles like the Chaos infused  warrior on page 29 of DCC. After he got a cure, he found young scavenger worms greeting him as one of their, had his armor etched with rude runes as a result of caustic Slorn spit, and eventually had a trollwife fall in love with him. No advantage is free.


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